Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group’s capital investment plan for the next five years includes an additional $1.9 billion in spending on renewable energy in comparison to the current five-year investment plan. WEC Energy’s 2023-27 capital plans calls for $7.3 billion in spending on renewables, up from $5.3 billion in the 2022-26 plan. The increase translates to roughly 900 megawatts of additional renewable energy generation. In total, the new plan calls for 1,900 MW of solar generation, 670 MW of wind generation and 720 MW of battery storage generation, Xia Liu, chief financial officer of WEC Energy Group, said on the company’s earnings call. The new plan calls for a sharp increase in reliance on wind generation, which only accounted for 82 MW of almost 2,400 MW included in the current five-year plan. Solar also sees an increase of more than 400 MW from the current plan’s 1,475 MW. Specific projects for around 1,200 MW of the 3,300 MW plan has already been announced and is either already under construction or awaiting regulatory approval. WEC Energy Group and its utilities are in the midst of a massive reshaping of where electricity in Wisconsin comes from. Older coal-fired power plants are being retired and replaced with utility-scale solar projects. WEC Energy Group estimates the investment in renewables could save customers $2 billion over the long-term. However, in the short-run, the investments in new power generation has been among the main drivers in pushing customer bills higher. One of WEC’s utilities, Wisconsin Electric, is currently seeking approval from regulators in a rate case that could increase residential customer bills by more than $14 per month. Some of the projects, including the Badger Hollow II project in Iowa County and the Paris Solar-Battery Park in Kenosha County, have seen rising costs and delays in sourcing solar panels. Those delays, combined with concerns about the stability of the electric grid in the Midwest next summer, led Wisconsin Electric and other utilities to delay the planned retirement of a number of coal plants, including older units in Oak Creek. WEC Energy officials on Tuesday said many of the delay issues have been resolved. Scott Lauber, chief executive officer of WEC Energy, said around 30 MW of solar panels had been released from a warehouse in Chicago for the Badger Hollow project and another 20 MW would be released soon. “We think we have the path figured out for the other solar panels,” Lauber said. “The good news is … things are starting to move,” said Gale Klappa, executive chairman of WEC Energy Group. “For the first time in months.”
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